Signs of Breast Cancer Dimpling

Subtleties Between Dimpling, Stretch Marks, and Other Physical Changes

While a lump is the most common breast cancer symptom, dimpling of the breast may also be a warning sign. Dimpling usually appears as a slight indentation in the skin along with an uneven texture.

Breast cancer dimpling can occur when a tumor inside the breast pulls on healthy tissue and distorts the look of the skin. The dimpling may also be noticeable if a lump grows close to the overlying skin.

Dimpling of the breast can be caused by noncancerous (benign) issues that manifest as skin changes, such as fat necrosis, when fatty tissue is damaged after injury or trauma.

This article discusses breast cancer dimpling and when to talk to your healthcare provider about breast skin changes.

Woman checking breasts for lumps

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Common Causes of Breast Cancer Dimpling

Dimpling can be a symptom of different types of breast cancer, including lobular breast cancer, which begins in milk-producing glands) and inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare, aggressive type affecting lymph vessels and skin.

Both of these breast cancers don't usually cause distinct, firm breast lumps to form. Dimpling can also be a symptom of invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common breast cancer that often produces a classic lump.

Appearance of Breast Dimpling From Cancer

Dimpling creates a sunken appearance of the skin. When skin dimples, it can look slightly pitted and uneven in texture.

A dimple can form on the breast, near the armpit, or on the nipple. Some research suggests that when a breast lump and dimple are present, dimpling may not be noticeable until you move a lump around or press on it in various spots. However, with IBC and lobular breast cancer, dimpling can occur without a lump.

Puckering of the breast skin, which causes a slight indentation, is similar to dimpling and can signify breast cancer.

Dimpling vs. Stretch Marks

Some people may confuse dimpling with stretch marks caused by stretched skin during pregnancy, puberty, or when someone gains weight. New stretch marks may look like curvy purple, red, or pink streaks. Older stretch marks might appear faded in color.

IBC and Skin Dimpling

With IBC, tumor cells block lymphatic channels that flow through breast skin. This can cause the skin to look dimpled, somewhat like the skin of an orange. 

IBC is a rare form of breast cancer that only accounts for about 1% to 5% of all cases, but it often doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms until it’s advanced. Other signs of IBC include:

  • Redness, swelling
  • An inverted nipple
  • One breast that looks larger or is warmer and heavier than the other
  • A tender, painful, or itchy breast
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

Lobular Breast Cancer

Lobular breast cancer accounts for about 10% to 15% of all breast cancers. It can cause symptoms similar to IBC, including dimpling that looks like an orange peel. There may or may not be a lump or swelling under the arm or on the breast with this type of cancer.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Other types of breast cancer, like invasive ductal carcinoma, can also cause dimpling if the tumor alters the shape of breast tissue and affects the skin. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer and often causes a signature breast lump.

What’s Considered “Normal” Dimpling?

Normal dimpling is usually due to noncancerous lumps or fat necrosis, often confused with breast cancer. Fat necrosis can cause firm, round lumps to form in the breast, but they are not cancerous. The skin around the lump may look dimpled, thickened, bruised, or red.

Other conditions, such as fibromatosis, can cause benign tumors and dimpling that may look like breast cancer.

Because it’s difficult to distinguish whether a lump or dimpling is a cancerous tumor or a benign condition just by looking at it, it’s important to see your healthcare provider any time you notice a change in the appearance of your breasts.

Treating Fat Necrosis

Fat necrosis is harmless and usually doesn't require treatment. In most cases, a person's body will break down the lump.

Asking Your Healthcare Provider

You should see your healthcare provider any time you notice a change in the appearance of your breasts, including dimpling. It's difficult to tell the difference between normal dimpling and dimpling due to breast cancer, so getting checked out is essential.

Diagnosis Steps

Your healthcare provider may recommend the following tests to determine if your dimpling is caused by breast cancer:


Dimpling can be a sign of breast cancer, but it isn't always a cause for concern. Dimpling looks like a sunken, pitted area with an uneven texture. Breast cancers, such as inflammatory breast cancer, lobular breast cancer, and invasive ductal carcinoma, can all cause dimpling of the breast skin.

Noncancerous conditions like fat necrosis and fibromatosis are also common causes of dimpling. Your healthcare provider can help determine if the dimpling is related to breast cancer or a harmless lump.

A Word From Verywell

If you notice changes in the appearance of your breast, such as dimpling, see a healthcare provider immediately. Chances are, you won't be able to tell if the dimpling is related to breast cancer just by looking at it. Your healthcare provider is your best source for helping to determine if the dimpling is something to be concerned about.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you have dimpling with benign breast tumors?

    Yes, dimpling can occur in conditions that cause benign lumps, such as fat necrosis and fibromatosis.

  • What’s the difference between breast dimpling and puckering?

    Breast dimpling and puckering are related conditions that cause the skin to slightly indent. Dimpling also looks like the texture of an orange peel.

  • Are indentations the same as breast dimples?

    Breast dimples can cause slight indentations or a sunken appearance, as well as an uneven texture.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Moffitt Cancer Center. 5 facts about breast dimpling and cancer.

  3. National Breast Cancer Foundation. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC).

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  7. American Cancer Society. Inflammatory breast cancer.

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  10. Breast Cancer Now. Invasive lobular breast cancer.

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